May 20.—Morning. [Or October 6.]
“Let us fall now into the hands of the Lord.”
AFTER many trials, David again enjoyed a period of repose, but his leisure again proved a temptation to him, and he resolved to form an estimate of his own greatness that he might have whereof to glory.
2 Samuel 24:1–4; 9–15
1 And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah. (In the Book of Chronicles, Satan is said to have provoked David to this deed, and so indeed he did, and thus the moral evil of the action belongs to the tempter and his ready victim; but the writer of the present passage saw the hand of the Lord in it, using the sin of David as the means of punishing the sins of the people. Both statements are true, and there is no need to attempt a reconciliation, since one truth must agree with another whether we see it or not.)
2 For the king said to Joab the captain of the host, which was with him, Go now through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan even to Beersheba, and number ye the people, that I may know the number of the people.
3 And Joab said unto the king, Now the Lord thy God add unto the people, how many soever they be, an hundredfold, and that the eyes of my lord the king may see it: but why doth my lord the king delight in this thing?
Joab was not only right, but courteous on this occasion. He knew that the people would judge that either a new taxation or a conscription was on foot, and they would become uneasy and rebellious, therefore he thought it unwise. According to the law of Moses, a piece of money as a sin-offering was to be offered by every Israelite when the tribes were counted, but this was neglected. Moses numbered the people at God’s bidding, considering them to be the Lord’s people, but David counted them at his own will, as if they were his own people, and this the Lord would not endure.
4 Notwithstanding the king’s word prevailed against Joab, and against the captains of the host. And Joab and the captains of the host went out from the presence of the king, to number the people of Israel.
9 And Joab gave up the sum of the number of the people unto the king: and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men.
10 ¶ And David’s heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. (That which he looked upon as ground for boasting became reason for humiliation. His army of a million and a quarter of warriors gave him no joy, for he had grieved his God.) And David said unto the Lord, I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O Lord, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly. (Grace was in him, and when it came to the front, he was ready enough to mourn his error. O for the like tenderness of conscience!)
11, 12 For when David was up in the morning, the word of the Lord came unto the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying, Go and say unto David, (Plain David, not David, my servant, as it had formerly been. If we walk contrary to God, he will shew himself contrary to us) Thus saith the Lord, I offer thee three things; choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee.
13 So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days’ pestilence in thy land? now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me.
14 And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of the Lord: for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man. (He had a hard alternative, but his choice was wise, and it showed that with all his wanderings he had a sound and loving trust in the Lord his God. A child of God feels always safest in his Father’s hands.)
15 ¶ So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel, and there died of the people from Dan even to Beer-sheba seventy thousand men.
O that my chastened heart may smite
And make me inly groan,
Whene’er I vainly take delight
In aught I call my own.
Harden’d by sin’s deceitfulness
O may I never be,
But miss my comfort and my peace,
Whene’er I turn from thee.
May 20.—Evening. [Or October 7.]
“It is enough: stay now Thine hand.”
OF that great population, in whose number David had sought food for his pride, the plague swept away seventy thousand men.
2 Samuel 24:16–25
16 And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand. And the angel of the Lord was by the threshingplace of Araunah the Jebusite. (The angel of pestilence, appearing in visible shape, added a special terror to the judgment. Solemn must have been the state of men’s minds as they saw the destroyer unsheathe his sword to smile the capital city of the empire.)
17 And David spake unto the Lord when he saw the angel that smote the people, and said, Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father’s house.
Was not this well and bravely spoken? Like a true patriot the king is moved by the woes of his subjects, and, like the father of his country, he would sooner perish himself than see Israel smitten. These people had often acted like wolves to him, but he forgot all their injuries and calls them sheep; they had been guilty of a thousand sins, but, in his zeal for them, he makes himself out to be a far greater sinner, and would have the bolts of vengeance spend themselves upon him and his. Even thus does “that Great Shepherd of the sheep” interpose between the destroying angel and his own redeemed. “If ye seek me,” saith he, “let these go their way.”
18 ¶ And Gad came that day to David, and said unto him, Go up, rear an altar unto the Lord in the threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite. (On that very spot where the angel held the knife of Abraham from killing his son, there God restrained the sword of the angel from destroying his people.)
19 And David, according to the saying of Gad, went up as the Lord commanded.
20 And Araunah looked, and saw the king and his servants coming on toward him: and Araunah went out, and bowed himself before the king on his face upon the ground.
21 And Araunah said, Wherefore is my lord the king come to his servant? And David said, To buy the threshingfloor of thee, to build an altar unto the Lord, that the plague may be stayed from the people.
22 And Araunah said unto David, Let my lord the king take and offer up what seemeth good unto him: behold, here be oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing instruments and other instruments of the oxen for wood.
23 All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, The Lord thy God accept thee.
24 And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.
Here two bountiful spirits entered into holy competition, and one hardly knows which to admire most. True devotion is never niggardly: to godly men that service of God tastes sweetest which costs them most. Nothing is dear enough to give to God; expense is not to be reckoned when the gift is for him. We would not be as those who only bring to God what they can collect from other people. Our gifts shall be from our own store.
25 And David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the Lord was entreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel.
Thus was the site of the temple marked out in a very special manner. Zion, the church of God, of which the temple was the type, is founded on the hill of sacrifice; it is a monument in praise of sparing mercy; and there the sword of justice is for ever sheathed. Have we come unto mount Zion? Are we resting upon the precious blood of sprinkling? These are grave questions, which it behoves each one to answer on his own account as before the great heart-searching God.
The Lord beheld the sacrifice
There to be offer’d once for all,
He heard his Son’s expiring cries
For mercy and forgiveness call.
It is enough—our lives he spares,
For Jesus, our Atonement, died,
He sheathes the sword; he hears our prayers;
His justice now is satisfied.
 Spurgeon, C. H. (1964). The Interpreter: Spurgeon’s Devotional Bible (pp. 295–296). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.